Should you move abroad?

 

This is probably the most common and repeated question I am asked. Should I study abroad? I was thinking about teaching overseas, what’s it like? What brought you to Thailand…Australia.. New Zealand?When I sense this reoccurring theme I think… blog post. That’s what happens when you’ve been blogging for this long. It’s easier to just get out all the advice in one fell swoop.

So… you’re thinking about teaching abroad? Dreaming of leaving your boring job behind to travel the world? Want to meet a sexy foreign man and never return? Be careful.. It can really happen! Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.

So let’s go through some pros and the cons and what I believe you need to be ready for no matter where you go or why.

Pros

Your life becomes a “holiday”— When you move abroad everything feels shiny, new and exciting. You always feel like you are traveling because, well, you are. You feel excited to do ordinary and mundane things and every single day someone comments on your accent. You are an outsider, which to me makes life fresh and unusual. And I love that.

You see so much-– I always say the best way to see a country is to live there. 2 weeks in a country. Forget it. You don’t actually get a real feel for the culture, the people, the struggles, the local spots and the hidden gems. Should you still go if that’s all the time you have? Of course. But the best way to see a country/ area of the world is to just move there already. Stop thinking so much.

You never have to say “what if”— I have had so many older people tell me that they wished they did what I did when they were young. I promised myself I would never be someone who looked back and regretted getting settled down too fast– and I am definitely keeping that promise. I would rather give it a shot and hate it, then never try and just dream about it for the rest of my life.

You gain a newfound respect for your home– You start to love and appreciate home more than ever. You understand what a gift it is to have familiar faces and places. You savor every second with loved ones. You realize how privileged you were to grow up where you did. (in my case, anyway) and you are proud to represent your country-no matter where you roam.

You find out what you actually like– Traveling and living abroad teaches you to actually figure out what hobbies and interests light you up. You can’t travel and see the world while having 17 random hobbies you only do because of your group of friends. You probably can’t get your nails done every two weeks and buy all the latest trendy outfits, but if you’re like me you’ll realize that shit didn’t really make you happy anyway.

You don’t define yourself the same way– When you live in your hometown, home state or even your home country: you are constantly defined by constructs outside of yourself. Your family, your church or religion, your friends, your college, your favorite sports team, your gym or your state. Once you cross the borders, you have to define you. Everything about your past is just a story and a memory. People meet you at face value–who are you today? You can be whoever you want to be. Sure, you never lose those parts of yourself but you get to decide how closely you let them define you.

You realize it’s not the only way– This was one of the biggest things for me. The perspective. The cultural differences. It’s absolutely mind blowing at first. I remember when I first moved to Thailand I felt so sorry for the young children playing in the streets with no shoes. I could tell that they lived in the small area at the back of their parents shop and I felt like I wanted to adopt them and “save them.” I quickly realized they had every single thing they needed and they were as happy as clams. I stopped feeling sorry for them and started feeling sorry for the  4 year old kids, glued to their iPad in the back seat of the Range Rover with 4 nannies and a serious lack of attention and interaction with their parents.

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A note from someone left behind

Do you understand what losing someone to suicide is really like? Do you know what it’s like to be someone left behind? Do you think you have a better idea after watching the latest TV show? Well, I watched it. And my best friend killed herself when I was 15. Here’s my two cents.

The latest Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” was another show clogging up my social media newsfeed. Much like a viral funny video, a big news story or controversial celebrity gossip, you start to see it everywhere and it makes you quite curious. I am on social media constantly working my business so I tend to be on the up and up with trendy things in pop culture.

When I heard about the show, I googled it and saw the subject matter. At first I was surprised to see this subject matter as a mainstream Netflix series. I was intrigued. I am a mental health advocate. I’m part of a non-profit surf organization, One Wave,  which is raising awareness for mental health so I am very vocal about this difficult and often taboo subject matter. I lost my best friend to suicide in 2006 and grew up with my mother suffering from severe mental health issues. My family is also riddled with mental illness and I suffer from mental health issues myself. So, I may not be a psychologist or a doctor, but I have a lot of real-life first hand experience that I feel must be shared.

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What is it really like to have ADHD and anxiety?

Why are you thinking so much? Did you take your medicine?

You’re in a great mood, why are you worrying about that?

Why can’t you focus? Use some self control.. Come on.

But you really should be starting this now instead….after you send that email and check on that load of laundry. Oh look, you forgot about that you started yesterday. What should you really be doing right now?

It’s not that it won’t let you focus, it lets you focus on 75 things at once. That’s normal, right?

When you finally get that focus channeled, there is no stopping you. It may be hours dedicated to one task or project.

When you lose the passion and excitement for the task, it’s hard to recreate that type of focus.

When you don’t feel passionate about something, you will do it but it has some strange soul sucking quality to it. Don’t they feel that too?

When you feel nervous about the smallest thing, even though it has no relevance to the situation.

When your room or your house is a mess you literally feel sick to your stomach, and your eyes and brain are darting around the room endlessly.  If you just clean it you’ll feel better.

When you don’t want to have a plan, you’re a free spirit. But you need a plan. You need the steps to follow.  You’re nervous with one and you’re helpless without one.
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Make your bed= Change your life?

 So the burning question? Should you make your bed? JK.

Everyone is asking me…How is New Zealand?

I know you are picturing me in wide open grassy fields with picturesque mountains, huge sparkly lakes and perfect flowers in the foreground. Maybe bungee jumping, diving into caves or sipping wine in sunny vineyards? Quintessential adventure traveling in New Zeland. I wish that was the case but the nomad lifestyle isn’t always what Instagram portrays it to be. No matter how positive my attitude is the adjustment into a new country, culture, and lifestyle is never simple especially when you leave everything to sort out once you’ve already arrrived. Bank accounts, hours searching for apartments, flatshares, house shares, Air Bnb’s online and then viewing them only to be told they aren’t available for short term leases or you’re sharing the apartment with 6 other strangers. No wifi, finding new phone plans. This is not a rant or a complaining session, it’s simply a dose of reality because I want to help my readers to understand all aspects of the nomad lifestyle, even the not so sexy parts.


Luckily, my first week in New Zealand did start on a high note. My favorite nonprofit organization, One Wave celebrated it’s 4th birthday last Friday. If you haven’t read my blog before or you’re just stopping by One Wave is a non profit surf organization raising awareness for mental health by dressing up in Fluro gear every Friday and heading to the beach for surfing, yoga, and some serious heart to hearts about what it’s like to suffer from mental health struggles. This organization introduced me to the coolest humans and my closest friends in Australia and I was stoked when I found out for the 4th birthday they were celebrating at the a beach suburb in Auckland, Takapuna, which coincidentally was a 25 minute walk from our Air Bnb. I see you Universe, you beautiful thing.

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Harry experienced his first Fluro, I got to see my Fluro sista from Sydney who recently moved back to NZ, and we paddle boarded in the serene waters at Takapuna Beach. Nothing could make me feel more welcome than bringing my normal Friday tradition with me to my new home. Harry and I headed to the city for brunch and then entered into the life admin stage. Adulting sucks sometimes.

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Should you book the flight?

I can’t let my streak be blown completely by my travels. I’ve spent two glorious weeks in Bali and the best way to describe my feelings are recharged.  I have tons of tips, photos, stories, and videos to come in the near future on my blog but tonight I am singing a different tune. Honestly, I’m not sure how this song will play out. My words are such a safe and comfortable place for me. It’s as if I could be anywhere in the world and once I start writing it’s like metaphorically being snuggled on the couch on Stinard Ave with my parent’s favorite blanket. They are safe but they are also intoxicatingly surprising. Kind of like a librarian who also has an affinity for S&M. My truest voice comes when I just let my creative one take over and run the show.

As my trip comes to an end I’m feeling reflective( me, reflective? Never) I think that travel in general is romanticized in photographs, blog posts and movies especially to a place like Bali. I know that as an American Bali sounded so exoctic and far fetched to me when I lived in the Northern Hemisphere. The flights alone were way out of my student loan debt teacher salary price range. But once I moved to the Southern Hemisphere, Bali became a totally accessible and logical vacation spot. And one that I simply had to experience.

The first time I went in 2014 was with three of my American girlfriends who I taught in Thailand with and became extremely close to. We traveled to Bali for just over two weeks, Australia for just over two weeks and ended the trip in Thailand for one final shabang on our favorite island Ko Phi Phi.  It was coincidently following my final breakup with my college ex of five and a half years. That trip was one  defined by freedom, exploration and healing. I will never forget the spark it lit in my soul. It is what ultimately led me to move to Australia and fall in love with traveling on a whole new level.

Needless to say, this trip has been a tad different coming to Bali with my boyfriend as opposed to four single American girls.  I wasn’t exactly nervous about traveling with Harry but I was very curious to see how well we would get along with the stressors of an international trip. If you don’t already know this, you may have very close relationships with people but that does not mean that they are always meant to be your traveling buddy. I think traveling exposes the most vulnerable and messy sides of a person and your travel vibes and desires just have to match in order for it to be enjoyable for everyone. No pressure, Har.

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Confessions of an Over Packer

How does packing for a weekend trip, long vacation, or even a move make you feel? Are you an organized planner? Do you do a little bit each day for a few weeks or do you save it to the last minute?

Every traveler has to deal with the task of packing up their suitcase or backpack for their journey ahead. I am notorious for being a last minute over packer. I analyze every situation that might happen and why I just have to have that extra maxi dress. Not only has packing up this time called into question my packing habits but it also makes me question my relationship with material things in general.

After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix I felt very inspired to try to cut down the amount of stuff in my life. I have lived abroad for almost three of the past four years post graduate school. I learned to live off of one suitcase or even a couple backpacks for year-long stints living abroad but I also have a walk in closet and a whole bedroom full of “stuff” waiting for me at my parent’s home in New York. When I came home from Australia for a visit after a year of living there I felt truly shocked and saddened by the amount of clothes I had just sitting there. In some ways it was really exciting because it was like going shopping in my own closet. There were so many things I forgot I even had but I still had a full suitcase full of stuff I had brought with me. What’s the constant need for new stuff?

I will never be a true minimalist. I like clothes. I like fashion. I think the way we present ourselves to the outside world is important. When I dress well, I feel good. I live a diverse lifestyle and have different wardrobes based on those roles I play. I have my “teacher” or professional clothes, my growing activewear collection and then my casual wardrobe. I struggle with this because I truly do believe in experiences over things. I would way rather buy a plane ticket than a designer hand bag. But when I am packing I realize that I am still part of this material world., I can’t decide how I feel about that. I have donated a lot of things but my ADHD and anxiety lead me to worry easily about freeing myself of too many things. What if I “need it”? I am sure many of you reading this can relate. How often do you ask yourself these types of questions? How often do you go shopping for new things that you “need”? How many things just sit in your closet untouched?

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How to Stay Fit on the Road

 

Are you passionate about traveling and living a healthy lifestyle? Maybe you aren’t necessarily passionate about healthy living but you know you need it. That’s okay too. When traveling for work, play or anything in between- it tends be to struggle to get workouts in and eat healthy. Many friends of mine complain that they often gain lots of weight when they are traveling and come home feeling bloated, run down and exhausted. Alcohol is often a part of traveling to new places and indulging in the local cuisine so how can you enjoy your trip and still stick to the healthy habits you’ve been working so hard to create?

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First and foremost, like anything else in life-it  starts with the belief that you can in fact do it. If you write off every single weekend trip, vacation and work trip before you even start of course you aren’t going to follow through once you are on the road. If it is important to you, you need to believe that it’s possible(because I promise you it is), plan ahead and accept progress not perfection.

In 12 days my boyfriend and I are packing up our lives here in Australia(maybe we should have already started) and heading to Bali for a holiday. If you follow my blog or social media you know that we aren’t leaving by choice but due to visa complications. We have nicknamed Bali our “deported holiday”  and then we intend to move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa until we can sort out a new visa to come back to Australia.

My boyfriend and I are both very passionate about health and fitness and have spent the past year really making it a lifestyle and not a vicious cycle of backwards and forwards! Both of us have been working extremely hard on our nutrition and our training and it’s a bit intimidating to head out into the unknown.

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Luckily, I know what to do. I have the belief I can do it. I have the tools to stay on track. I have a loving relationship with my body, food and adventure. I will never miss out on life for the sake of 3% body fat or a few pounds. I actually have no idea how much I weigh and I don’t care. I don’t expect perfection but I know I want to feel strong, healthy and happy when our vacation is over.

I care about treating my body well, nourishing it with quality foods and treating it sometimes too because let’s be real, I love food. Going backwards or stopping all together on my fitness journey is something I did FOR YEARS. I backpacked through South East Asia and Australia in 2014 and I definitely got off track and ended my trips feeling really shitty. The crazy part is I was still implementing some of these and didn’t even give up completely. But not this time. I’m going to share my plan and my tips so that you can take on your next adventure with the right attitude and not feel like you missed out on a thing.

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Repacking My Life and My Blog

Never fear, my free form headspace articles have not been forgotten. As my blog has evolved over the past few years, I have felt the desire to do more with it. With daydreams of being a nomad,  I have watched countless webinars and read many blog posts on how to turn your blog into a profitable business. I already have my own coaching business which I began separately from my blog. I started my blog as my passion project, a way to communicate with my friends and family when I moved abroad to Thailand in 2013. I had NO IDEA what would come of it.

At the time, I was graduating with my MA from WVU in Secondary Education with a specialization in English. My BA was in English. Since I was a young child, I loved to write. I loved reading, creative writing, and creating entire fictional universes. I couldn’t understand why my classmates hated writing so much. If the assignment was one page I wrote three. I couldn’t fathom why it was so difficult for most people, but it just came so naturally to me.

Take a minute and think of your favorite teacher you’ve ever had. Every single one of us have “that teacher.” For me it was my 9th and 10th grade English teacher, Chapman. Chap. Chapstick (my personal favorite.) He is a living legend when it comes to teaching and he saw something in me I couldn’t yet see in myself. I am happy today to call him a friend and mentor to this day. In recent years and more stints living in foreign countries, I haven’t spoke to him as frequently as I would like but he will always be someone who I credit for my passion for English and especially writing. He made me believe I had something special, an actual talent. Mind you, both my parents were incredible teachers and my mother was a phenomenal English teacher whom I greatly admire,  but it’s really hard to believe your parents when they tell you you’re “special.” Mr. Chapman was that teacher for me and for that, I will always be grateful. I wanted to pursue this hobby because of him and I’m not sure where I would be without that spark to this deeply burning flame.

In high school, shortly after Chapman’s English class, my best friend tragically committed suicide. How on earth does a 15 year old cope with that pain? Partying. Check. Drugs. Check. Numbing the pain. Check. Writing. Check. Writing was my saving grace. I turned to this former hobby and past time as a form of therapy- an escape. This was really the only healthy coping tool I had at the time. I didn’t share much with others but finally I decided to share something I wrote for the one year anniversary of Corey’s death(which I shared again here for the piece I wrote about the 10th anniversary earlier this year.) I quickly realized that my words could help people. They could reach people. They might even be able to save people.  Then I thought they might be saving me.

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Single, Taken, Heartbreakin: Why we all need Self-Love

Valentine’s Day seems to be a day we obsess over being in love and more so being lonely. I have friends who hate Valentine’s day whether they are in a relationship or single. But love is so much more than the feeling that people share in a romantic partnership. How can you love yourself a little more today? Are you sick of hearing about self-love? Are you confused by what people even mean by that term? I don’t care if you’re married, divorced, or a baby right out of the womb- we all deserve our own affection, attention and adoration. Self-love is a necessary component to being fulfilled, challenged and whole. Ultimately, you loving yourself shapes a better world for all of us. What should you remember to ensure you’re practicing self-love today and everyday?

It’s not selfish– People are typically hesitant to take time for themselves. “I’m too busy.” We pour ourselves fully into our jobs, families, lovers and hobbies so that at the end of the day what is left over for us? Nada. It’s not selfish to put yourself first in fact, that is the only way to ensure you are the greatest lover, teacher, friend, daughter, mother, or  coworker possible. You cannot pour from an empty cup. The first step towards loving yourself fully is realizing it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

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What happens when you unexpectedly have to change your entire life?

 

28 days…My boyfriend and I walked out of the hearing room and looked at each other with half relief, half sadness, and a tiny bit of sparkle in our eyes. After a series of unfortunate events and being deceived by his previous employer we knew that his 457 sponsorship visa to stay in Australia was not going to go through. We applied in April of 2016 so basically half of our relationship we have been waiting for the outcome of this visa. We prepared ourselves for them saying we had to leave but actually knowing you have 28 days to leave the entire little life you built together behind is quite terrifying once you receive the email of doom.

Instead of dwelling on the logistics, like the apartment we need to sublet, the furniture we need to sell, jobs we have to resign from, accounts we have to close, flights we need to book, (OMG, my to do list is endless right now) I’m taking a different approach this time. Usually, I would freak out- cry, let my anxiety get all out of whack and take control, be a moody brat to my boyfriend, feel sorry for myself, but this time, I decided to take control. Here is my video announcement of the news.

After announcing our news and getting an outpouring of love and support I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Many people were impressed with how positive I was being. People even expressed confusion by my positivity. How? How can you stay so positive?

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